United States: Twitter and Facebook suspend Donald Trump after violence on Capitol Hill
Twitter and Facebook have drawn a weapon that anti-Trump no longer hoped for: platforms temporarily blocked the outgoing president’s account, and Twitter even threatened him with permanent suspension, an unprecedented measure decided on Wednesday in the wake of the violence on Capitol Hill by supporters of the Republican billionaire. Donald Trump has been trying for months to discredit the presidential election of November 3, and has not stopped denouncing “rigged” elections. He had warned that he would try to prevent Congress from officially certifying Joe Biden’s victory on Wednesday, and some of his supporters took him at his word, invading the assembly in an insurrectionary climate.
Twitter withdrew three tweets from the president, including a video where he called on protesters to ” go back home “ but where he also declared without proof that the election had been “stolen”. This is the first time that the platform has removed tweets from the Head of State for reasons other than copyright. Usually, it is content to hide or add warnings to problematic messages, pertaining to disinformation or attacking the democratic process, in particular.
It is especially the first time that it blocks the account with 88 million subscribers, central in the communication strategy of the Republican billionaire. “@RealDonaldTrump’s account will be blocked for twelve hours after these tweets are removed. If these tweets are not deleted (by their author, editor’s note), the account will remain blocked ”, explained the network on its account dedicated to security.
Facebook and YouTube also removed the president’s ambivalent video. ” It is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including the withdrawal of President Trump’s video (…) which ultimately contributes to the risk of violence rather than reducing it ”, explained Wednesday afternoon Guy Rosen, one of the vice-presidents of Facebook, in charge of the integrity of the platform. Later, Facebook followed Twitter’s lead, suspending its account for 24 hours on the platform and also on the Instagram app. “We have identified two breaches of our rules on President Donald Trump’s page”, explained the communication of the Californian group on Twitter. “This means that he loses the ability to post on the platform during this period”.
The exchanges were excited Wednesday on social networks, where the demonstration and the invasion of the Capitol were relayed live. Californian companies have tried to deal with the most urgent. Twitter reduced the scope of messages encouraging violence – they couldn’t be retweeted or “liked”. YouTube has removed live streams showing rioters with guns or making inflammatory comments. Guy Rosen said he was “horrified” by the events of the day in a press release in which he explains that his teams have sought and removed all content calling directly or indirectly to violence.
But the networks have been widely criticized for their slowness, which has at times been seen as complacency by part of civil society. Many observers accuse the platforms of letting the outgoing president and his violent supporters organize their rally through their services.
“Too little, too late”?
“It’s too little, too late”, reacted in a statement the militant anti-Facebook organization baptized “Real Facebook Oversight Board” (“Real Supervisory Board of Facebook”). “24 hours is not enough. There are 13 days until the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, so many opportunities for Trump to wreak havoc ”. “Hey Mark Zuckerberg, Jack (Dorsey), Susan Wojcicki and Sundar Pichai – Donald Trump has provoked a violent attack on American democracy”, tweeted the committed comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, calling out to the bosses of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google. Relations between Donald Trump and social media have been strained since last May, when Twitter began pinning some of his posts in violation of his code of conduct.
The tenant of the White House and his camp accuse them of “censorship” and have tried to take retaliatory measures, for example by attacking the law which protects their legal status as host (instead of publisher). However, several studies have shown that the American right is very present and very effective on social networks. Some fiercely pro-Trump internet users also regularly frequent conservative platforms, such as Speak, where messages of support for the Capitol rioters flourished on Wednesday.